Written By: Anthony Hamilton
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Jacker Seeds provided the cinematic score for the closing credits of 2016 with his debut album, Caravan. In a voice discarded by the Grand Ole Opry, the Melbourne based singer-songwriter sentimentally oozes grand old cliches over a foggy rhythm section as dark as it is sweet.
A friend of mine once had the nerve to point out the production flaw in Black Sabbath’s Masters of Reality: the opening track, “Sweet Leaf” starts with a coughing fit and launches into the first driving riff, but those opening notes don’t punch as hard as they should. Jacker Seeds’ opening track falls flat in exactly the same way. At the outset, Seeds seemingly stumbles slightly over a metronome, but once he gains his footing, Maria Stratton’s violin weeps beautifully over his rhythmic strumming. As the duo crescendos, Sebastian Lenehan enters with his drum fill and the trio- just kind of plays. That’s not to say the track lacks grit; it just takes some time to get there. By the time producer and slide guitarist Diego Zaragoza joins the mix, Seeds is growling “Your life line is gone, but the body still remains.”
The quartet lazily plods along, phoning in “Seed Farm” (aside from a clever couple of phrases from Maria Stratton around the 1:20 mark) but with “I Saw You,” the band strikes gold. Jacker Seeds inadvertently forces an association with San Francisco noise-rock band, Flipper via their similarly titled track (“(I Saw You) Shine”) and their similarly repetitive, unpolished vocal melodies. Zaragoza’s raunchy slide guitar and Stratton’s ever-well-tempered violin pair beautifully to hand carve an Americana-noir bridge as the distinct pinnacle of the album.
Before arriving at the other “Bridge” on the album, Jacker channels Charlie Feathers in his unfortunately reverb-muddied “Night Time Stalker” while the rest of the band takes a smoke break. Despite (or perhaps due to) not being remarkable in itself, “Bridge” resonates as the epitomic track on the album, showcasing the quartet’s unique strengths: bluesy acoustic guitar, “cold” and “foggy” lyrics, the wonderful pairing of violin and slide guitar, and the steady backing of Sebastian Lenehan’s reserved drum set.
“Slipping Through” emerges as a pleasant surprise as the album begins winding down. The light acoustic guitar trickles along side by side with Zaragoza’s rhythmic plucking while Seeds professes a uniquely melancholy sweetness. “Won’t you stay a little longer while I try to work out what’s mine?” Seeds begs as Zaragoza launches into the album’s only guitar solo.
The band takes another break while the singer-songwriter reflects on drug use in “Child.” With this song, Jacker Seeds achieves what he could not achieve on “Night Time Stalker;” he delivers an emotionally interesting song capable of supporting itself without the being propped up by the band behind it. Maria Stratton joins back in and achieves a raspy hollowness with her bow as the violin and acoustic guitar duo bookends the album with “Maria.” “Don’t wanna sit and wait, just waiting for you” Jacker signs off as he resolves the album.
While the album may belong to Jacker Seeds, Maria Stratton’s tasteful and woefully intoned violin thrives where Seeds’ writing falls short. As a debut album, Caravan sets a respectable bar for the band’s future work and establishes the quartet as a group worth keeping an eye on as they move forward. The body is there and if Jacker Seeds’ can find his life line, he could shape up to be a brilliant artist in 2017.